THE CHARGE OF CYRUS THE GREAT.
1 WHAT means this awful sight? why round me shine
2 Those radiant glories, and that form divine?
3 See! where commission'd with some dread command,
4 How sternly waves you visionary hand!
5 Near and more near it beckons, "Cyrus, rise;
6 " The Gods remand thee to thy native skies. "
7 Since thus the pleasure of imperial Jove,
8 And solemn omens warn me from above;
9 Come then, ye fathers, venerable grown,
10 Whose steady counsels prop the Persian throne!
11 Ye friends, long wedded to fair Virtue's cause,
12 And ye, my sons, whom filial duty awes!
13 Attentive hear, amidst th' assembled throng,
14 The dying accents of a monarch's tongue.
15 I cease to live! yet, ah! forbear to shew
16 The mad expressions of unmanly woe.
17 To die, is to be blest: this understood,
18 'Twere needless mourning for the wise and good.
19 What Virtues charm us, or what Arts engage
20 In childhood, youth, in manhood, or in age,[Page 243]
21 In these I spent each well-distinguish'd day,
22 And still pursued, where Honour led the way:
23 Mine was each gift kind fortune could afford,
24 The statesman's counsel, or the hero's sword.
25 See, Asia, see thy once ignoble race,
26 What glory heightens, and what worthies grace!
27 See Peace thy realms with smiling train adorn,
28 And Plenty pour the treasures of her horn.
29 Yet, oft as Fortune blew propitious gales,
30 And mildest Zephyrs fann'd my swelling sails,
31 Still Caution warn'd me, anxious for the realm,
32 And Reason fear'd to quit her much-lov'd helm:
33 She calmly stemm'd Ambition's boisterous tide,
34 And lower'd the projects of gigantic Pride:
35 Hence unimpair'd are all my blessings now;
36 Hence fresh my laurels blooming o'er my brow:
37 Sage Foresight only keeps our conquests won;
38 The too secure too surely are undone.
39 No claimant princes shall hereafter jar,
40 (The bloody sources of intestine war)
41 For thus I will — both ye, my children, share
42 Alike my fondness, and alike my care!
43 Yet you, my eldest, to the crown succeed;
44 'Tis what thy father, what the gods decreed.
45 Reflect, from whence that sacred power is given,
46 Its fount, the grand authority of heaven!
47 Reflect, that monarchs only were design'd
48 To guard their people, and to bless mankind!
49 Each royal mandate Equity should bound,
50 And Goodness cast a smile on all around.
51 Nor less, whilst, hovering o'er th' embattled field,
52 Her palms to thee fond Victory shall yield,
53 Let Mercy plead: no hero's truly brave
54 Without that god-like principle — To save:
55 Distress should bid our generous pity flow;
56 Whilst Nature softens at another's woe.
57 By me releas'd, O! how the Jewish choir
58 To Sion's songs re-tun'd the sacred lyre,
59 Which by thep
p See Psalm cxxxvii. streams of Babylon, unstrung,
60 In late sad silence on the willows hung!
q The famous edict of Cyrus in behalf of the Jews, which is here alluded to, is recited in 1 Esdras. 2 Chron. i. 7.Dismiss'd with presents to their old abode,
62 To build the temple of their much-lov'd God,
r See Psalm cxxvi. Each mouth was full of laughter long unknown;
64 The joy, that sill'd their hearts, o'erflow'd my own.
65 Thy breast, young prince, let all these virtues fire,
66 And nobly to the world confess thy sire.
67 This happy state, that, from an heavenly plan,
68 Forms every scheme of happiness to man,
69 By justice 'stablish, and by arms defend;
70 No feuds embroil, and no divisions rend!
71 Transmit entire, to bless the peaceful home
72 Of nations now unborn, and monarchs yet to come.
73 And thou, my son, thou youngest, shalt command
74 The narrower confines of some neighbouring land. [Page 245]
75 Tho' larger realms thy brother's sway confess,
76 Thy peace is greater, as thy kingdom less.
77 Ambition's spur still pungent to the soul,
78 When o'er his mind his father's glories roll;
79 Pursuing close up Labour's craggy steep,
80 Fame hard to gain, and harder yet to keep;
81 Foremost in cares, as first in rule to shine;
82 These, these are his — but pleasures all are thine.
83 And weak, Cambyses, will thy kingdom prove,
84 Without the scepter of thy people's love.
85 But yet it asks thy caution, all thy care,
86 Thy subjects when to court, and when beware:
87 Not true by nature, man, whate'er he boast,
88 Most saithful seeming, may deceive the most.
89 Be thine the well-try'd statesman, prudent, just,
90 Unsway'd by lucre, unenslav'd by lust;
91 Who public good prefers to private ends,
92 Whose truth directs you, and whose zeal defends.
93 Then no sad murmurs can suspicion raise;
94 Admiring Anarchy itself obeys;
95 Base Treason dreads infernal plots to lay,
96 And calm'd Rebellion looks her rage away.
97 This once, Os
s The prophet Daniel was prime minister about seventy years to the princes of Babylon, of whom Cyrus was the last, who engaged him in his service, in which he, very probably, died. Daniel, was thy god-like part,
98 Thy head as learn'd, as was sincere thy heart.
99 Tho' sullen Jealousy oft curs'd thy name,
100 And Envy plann'd the ruins of thy fame,[Page 246]
101 Thy spotless honour cou'd the mouth defy
102 Of deadly lions, or the deadlier spy.
103 Chiefs, such as thou, best guard each prince's cause,
104 Whom conscience binds, and whom religion awes.
105 Thy friends promote, thy brother first of these,
106 Advancing most his honour, interest, ease;
107 So shall his soul with kindred passions burn,
108 And grateful friendship make the best return;
109 Faithful alike his counsels and his arms,
110 When peace shall bless you, or when war alarms.
111 But, O! if where respect her balms should bring,
112 Pride rears her crest, and Envy's adders sting;
113 If royal brothers, when some fiend inspires,
114 When Anger prompts, or when Ambition fires,
115 Divide themselves, and with imperious awe
116 Their people's hearts to different factions draw;
117 Then soon will Peace, that guardian Goddess, fail,
118 And injur'd Justice drop her equal scale;
119 Faith, heavenly guest, forsake her wonted stand,
120 And Truth indignant flee the guilty land;
121 In Concord's temple wild Contention reign,
122 And madning Fury clank her broken chain;
123 Her rights sequester'd Freedom shall deplore,
124 And Mercy's grand asylum be no more.
125 O! then, my sons, by that great God above!
126 By silial duty! by paternal love!
127 Let sacred Friendship with you ever grow,
128 The best of blessings earth contains below.
129 Nor think, when this poor life away shall flee,
130 Your royal father never more must be. [Page 247]
131 Tho' in our breast the soul's unseen, 'tis clear
132 A soul immortal has existence there.
133 Or whence has Action its energic spring?
134 Or whence, Reflection, thy excursive wing?
135 Whence all the dreadful scene of Horror spread
136 Around the trembling murderer's guilty head?
137 Or why does thus, when mortals dare to sin,
138 Vindictive Conscience ply the lash within?
139 Why o'er the grave those glaring trophies blaze?
140 Why all the pomp of monumental praise?
141 Vain were the lofty Muse's epic strain,
142 Vain the sad dirge, the rising column vain,
143 If human souls mortality must share,
144 And at the last but vanish into air.
145 Our thirst for Truth, which cannot here abate,
146 Points out some clearer, some more perfect state;
147 Whilst longing Hope still bids us calmly die,
148 And take our fair possession of the sky.
149 See Innocence with various cares distress'd,
150 Unfed, uncloath'd, unmansion'd, and oppress'd!
151 See modest Worth, 'midst troubles undeserv'd!
152 Admir'd, repuls'd! just pity'd, prais'd, and starv'd!
153 Yet still rejoice the sons of virtuous Woe,
154 Tho' prosperous Vice triumphant reigns below;
155 On Honour's mount tho' glares the perjur'd chief,
156 They walk contented thro' the vale of grief!
157 — It must be so — what Reasoner can believe,
158 That souls, when freed from bodies, cease to live?
159 Let Age the weak corporeal frame destroy,
160 The soul survives — this, this can never die:[Page 248]
161 Whilst that inactive moulders in the tomb,
162 This still shall flourish in immortal bloom,
163 Purg'd from all earthly dross, for ever rove
164 Thro' all th' unbounded tracts of happiness above.
165 When drowsy slumbers o'er the spirits creep,
166 Reflect, what Death is, from its image, Sleep!
167 In airy dreams the soul then wings its way,
168 Freed from the dull impediments of clay,
169 Holds converse sweet with every kindred power,
170 In myrtle grove, or amaranthin bower;
171 Thro' worlds unknown quick darts the vital flame,
172 And traverses all heaven, from whence it came.
173 But yet if, with the body, rigid Fate
174 The soul's existence should annihilate,
175 (How, when fond thoughts the pleasing theme pursue,
176 Does anxioust
t The notions of the wisest heathens concerning a future state were mixed with such doubts and uncertainties, that the strongest expressions of their philosophers upon this subject are little better than mere scepticism, when compared to the discoveries of the gospel, which alone has brought life and immortality to their fullest light. Doubt thus terminate the view!)
177 Yet still to God let pure devotion rise,
178 All-powerful, just, all-merciful and wise;
179 Whose piercing eye each secret fraud detects;
180 Whose wisdom governs, and whose care directs;
181 That Time, nor Fate hath in confusion hurl'd
182 The beauty, order, grandeur of the world.
183 Hence, where someu
u The Persians generally performed their religious exercises in the open air, on high places; as thinking it derogatory from the majesty of the deity, to shut that God up within walls, who should have the earth for his altar, and the whole world for his temple. mountain, awful to the sight,
184 Rears its rude summit to yon realms of light,
185 Let humble prayer, propitiating the sky,
186 The body prostrate, or uplift the eye;
187 There glad thanksgiving grateful altars raise!
188 There choral Paeans swell the song of praise!
189 Let no Corruption near thy palace spread,
190 Nor dire Oppression rear her iron head.
191 There heaven-born virtues shall attract the sight,
192 Peace, Love, and Charity, divinely bright;
193 There Bounty, guided byx
x It is a sine compliment, that Pliny pays to the munificence of the emperor Trajan, —Augeo principis munus, quum ostendo liberalitati ejus inesse rationem. Plin. Paneg. Traj. Discretion's hand,
194 Shall deal her favours to a grateful land:
195 There Truth shall smile, in awful state enshrin'd,
196 The fair resemblance of th' eternal mind,
197 There Mercy shall vouchsafe her milder word;
198 There Justice brandish her impartial sword,
199 Shall right the injur'd, and the weak defend,
200 Each orphan's guardian, and each widow's friend.
201 Pursue, great prince, pursue th' important plan;
202 Be fear'd, as monarch; but be lov'd, as man.
203 And when my soul, fair tenant, flies away
204 From this frail mansion mouldering to decay,[Page 250]
205 No costly pile with funeral grandeur burn,
206 Nor cull my ashes for the pompous urn;
207 Far other honours let these relics have,
208 The low-delv'd chamber of some silent grave:
209 Where, when our gloomy long abode we fix,
210 The human particles with earthly mix,
211 Whilst beyond fate, and fortune's farthest line,
212 For ever lives the particle divine.
213 Yet make myy
y Plutarch tells us, that Alexander, upon his first coming into Asia, found the sepulchre of Cyrus inscribed with an epitaph; and was exceedingly affected with so serious a lesson upon the instability of all human affairs. Plut. Life of Alex. tomb to future ages known,
214 And with a modest verse inscribe the stone:
215 The verse shall preach some moral truth to man —
216 "That fortune's various, or that life's a span;
217 " That vain the pomp and pageantry of state,
218 "That weak the mighty, and that frail the great;
219 " Grandeur a bubble! honours empty all!
220 "That heroes perish, and that monarchs fall."
221 And now, my friends, receive the parting view!
222 Press my chill'd hand, and bid the last adieu!
223 Call my dear Persians round the solemn bier,
224 And you, myz[Page 251]
z Cyrus's remarkable humanity, munificence, and affability to his soldiery, are frequently mentioned by Xenophon; his harangues to them, before any military enterprize, are particularly fine; himself and his whole army went to prayers, sung an hymn, and performed other duties to heaven, before and after battle, and always made the first onset in the name of〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, his country god, the protector and leader. fellow-soldiers, you be there!
225 With me who brav'd Arabia's pathless lands,
226 Bleak Scythia's coasts, and India's burning sands;
227 While strew'd on heaps around the foaming steed,
228 Or groan'd th' Assyrian, or expir'd the Mede.
229 Brave troops! by whom, as heaven protecting led,
230 Great Croesus fell, and proud Belshazzar bled.
231 But now, frail Health, how wan thy roses seem!
232 In flower currents flows the purple stream:
233 No more this breast with martial rage shall glow,
234 Nor rush all vengeance on the adverse foe;
235 No more this arm the flaming faulchion wield,
236 Or gather laurels from the well-fought field;
237 No more — for see the dire disease prevail,
238 My nerves all tremble, all my spirits fail!
239 — Ah, why those cries? see lovely Reason near
240 To calm the soul, and wipe off every tear,
241 O! rather all your wonted joys renew!
242 If life I leave, I leave its troubles too:
243 For, if my happy soul to God ascends,
244 Or in mere nothing if my being ends,
245 Death soon shall waft me to some unknown shore,
246 Where labours end, and sorrows are no more:
247 Where patriot heroes in the peaceful shade
248 No factions threaten, and no foes invade;
249 Where long oblivion, ending anxious strife,
250 Stills the wild hurry of a noisy life;
251 Or where all joys with heart-felt ease abound,
252 Whilst youthful spring for ever blooms around.
253 Come then, dear pledges of connubial joy,
254 Come, give the fond embrace, and let me die;[Page 252]
255 Next, to youra
a Cyrus married the daughter of Cyaxares; who was a very beautiful young princess, and had the kingdom of Media for her portion. mother all this scene impart;
256 How will it wound, sad tale! her tender heart!
257 Her heart by grief too delicately mov'd,
258 For ever loving, and for ever lov'd.
259 Ah! now what ease employs her softer hours,
260 Near murmuring fountains, or in cooling bowers
261 At Susa's royal court? what princely care
262 Far from her dying lord detains my fair?
263 Where now that tongue, that never ceas'd to charm?
264 Where the soft smile, that sickness could disarm?
265 Or where the hands my weary eyes to close,
266 The last kind office in my last repose?
267 How oft I nam'd her with my latest breath,
268 How bless'd her absent, in the midst of death,
269 Ye conscious skies, ye lights celestial, tell!
270 Farewel, O loveliest of thy sex, farewel!
271 Farewel, my chiefs! in my example see
272 What monarch, general, patriot, friend, should be.